Thursday, July 31, 2008

Company Docs, Company Medical Clinics Are Back

The company doctor is back.

In a climate of deepening health-care woes, company-based medical centers are winning dozens of fresh converts. These include the North American units of Toyota and Nissan, Harrah's Entertainment, and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. Pharmacy chain Walgreen, which also operates nearly 200 small clinics for customers at its retail stores, sees so much growth in on-site medical centers that in May it snapped up Take Care Health.

A recent study by benefits-consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that 32% of all employers with more than 1,000 workers either have an on-site medical center or plan to build one by 2009. "We're talking about a microcosm of health-care reform," says Hal Rosenbluth, president of Walgreen's health and wellness division. "Companies can take control and understand their health-care costs."

Full BusinessWeek article here.

NCPA summary here.

Comment: While politicians in Washington and the two presidential candidates dream up the next grandiose government healthcare reform to address rising healthcare costs, the most effective, affordable and convenient market-based healthcare solutions might be right around the corner at your employer's on-site medical center, or right around the corner at your local Kroger, Walgreens, Meijers, CVS, Target or Wal-Mart.


At 7/31/2008 9:10 AM, Blogger save_the_rustbelt said...

For more information on the redi-clinic business.

The company medical clinic picked up steam in the 90s, lost momentum, and is now picking up steam again (note: running medical clinics is not as easy as it looks to executives).

At 7/31/2008 10:23 AM, Blogger Matt S said...

My only concern over this is that companies are doing this to cut costs, and with medicine, you have to be extra careful that lowered costs don't equal lowered quality.

At 7/31/2008 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

matt s,

You have to also consider that companies are cutting health care insurance altogether. If they can provide health care clinics at an affordable cost, they can provide a benefit which might otherwise be eliminated altogether.

There is no free lunch. GM demonstrates what happens to a business that is unable to contain run-away health care costs.

Quality is certainly an important component. Access to care and cost are also important elements.

At 8/01/2008 5:08 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

The whole system is out of whack anyway. Your Healthcare provider should not be tied to your employment. Otherwise, when you change jobs, you change your provider. When your employer decides to pay less, you lose services you might otherwise prefer to keep.

Healthcare should be handled on the personal level, with some aggregation done via co-ops. Employers should provide vouchers of some sort which cover a defined amount of your coverage -- with the added advantage of the fact that it turns one of your more difficult-to-compare benefits between job-A and job-B into a hard number. (You want to maintain the voucher connection rather than a straight-up monetary amount because there are and probably ought to be tax benefits -- to both you and your employer).

Another obvious benefit of such a system is that changing jobs does not cancel your coverage or move it to a different company, possibly less than you prefer, nor does it create issues with pre-existing conditions on the job change.

The insurer gets a more steady base to measure against, and gains some ability to really tie costs to expenses by having a longer-term relationship with the insured, the employer gets to eliminate an expensive and time consuming headache from its payroll/HR section (many companies have to have a full-time individual just to handle the paperwork and to research plans and prices each year), and the individual gets to actually have the coverage *they* are willing to pay for no matter what the employer is willing to pay for.

Win-Win-Win, all around.

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